Monday, June 03, 2024

Election Eve '24: Primary Flies Low Over Much Of State But Then There's The War Zones, Plus: Analysts Disappointed in First Domenici US Senate TV Ad; "Not Compelling", And: Previewing Our Election Night Coverage On KANW  

With much of the media taking a vacation from coverage, no competitive statewide races and most New Mexicans not living in a contested legislative district, Primary '24 has flown so far under the radar that it's scraping the tree tops in the Rio Grande bosque.

But for those living in the handful of targeted state Senate or House seats featuring seriously contested primaries, it's been a war zone filled with the equivalent of F-15 fighters on bombing runs. None more so than ABQ NE Heights Senate District 15 where progressives are on the march against conservative Dem Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto as they try to oust him with Heather Berghmans. Voters there must wince each time they open their mailboxes. 

Courtesy of one of our intrepid blog readers in the district, we bring the scope of that battle right to your doorstep:

Joe, the Ivey-Soto-Berghmans race in the last days has brought the following mailers. 

There have been six hit pieces against Ivey-Soto, including:

--“I don’t know why you won’t kiss me.” – Planned Parenthood. 

--"Daniel Ivy Soto banking on corporate special interests – follow the money." Voters New Mexico.

--"No Longer Welcome – Rejected by NM Democrats." NM Working Families Party PAC.

There have been two hit pieces against Ivey-Soto’s opponent Heather Berghmans:

Berghmans & Ivey-Soto
"Most politicians take years to learn how to lie about their records. Berghmans figured it out right away." New Mexico Justice Project.

"More Crime, More Violence, More Problems. She is just wrong for us. " New Mexico Justice Project.

There have been three positive pieces about Ivey-Soto:

 --"On our side." Ivey-Soto Committee.

--"Fighting for Democratic and progressive values."Ivey-Soto Committee.

--"Always looked out for us." Ivey-Soto Committee.

 There have been six positive pieces about Berghmans, including:

"Advocate for our kids." NMVC Action Fund

"Full of bright ideas." CVNM Verde Voters Fund

So what's your favorite mailer? "I don't know why you won't kiss me?" 


After hearing the feedback on Nella Domenici's first TV ad the title of the spot could be "the lady doth protest too much."  

That's because this 30 second homage to her father, the late GOP Senator Pete Domenici, is so strenuously determined to portray her as a homegrown product and not the New York City multi-millionaire hedge fund manager she grew up to be. 

The ad is heavy on nostalgia and sentimentality with the Senator the centerpiece of his daughter's introductory foray into La Politica. But for our observers the ad tries too hard and speaks of a far away time that may have appeal to longtime Republicans voting in Tuesday's primary in which Domenici has no opponent but does little to get Democrats and independents out of their seats. 

The transcript:

Nella Domenici grew up here, one of eight kids. With Nella’s dad serving our state, her mom had her hands full. Nella saw first-hand, those values are timeless. So, she stepped up, juggling part time jobs and plenty of chores. Trying to balance it all, like she did as a mom, working her way up to CFO. 

I’m Nella Domenici and I approve this ad. Because New Mexico is Home. Demand More. Nella Domenici for Senate.

Domenici, 63, left her native ABQ when she was a mere 12 years old. Her ties here are tenuous but that is not deadly. Her Dem opponent, Sen. Martin Heinrich, has carried the carpetbagger label and look where it got him. Ditto for Bill Richardson and scores of other politicos. 

While her ad may unduly labor to shirk the carpetbagger tag, it commits a more concerning sin--it becomes boring, according to a number of consultants and longtime observers.

Former GOP ABQ city councilor, state legislator and now independent Santa Fe attorney Greg Payne, who has consulted numerous campaigns, came with this reaction:

This is a weak ad.  She assumes everyone remembers her dad the way she does, or did--almost two decades ago. There is no real message. The ad should be about how she will fight for New Mexico, the economy, crime and secure the border. She and her brother Pete Jr. (who ran for Governor in 2010) seem to assume that they deserve to be elected--simply because of who their dad used to be. One other thing... the ad asserts she worked "her way up to CFO."  Her dad was chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, something that is not lost on the locals who Nella is so eager to be identified with. 

Mike Santullo, an independent, a pioneer of ABQ talk radio programming and a several time political candidate, had a similar reaction: 

I fully understand that the campaign wants to tie her in with her father and that's acceptable, but we are living in trying times with issues that demand immediate attention, The ad is too general and not compelling enough to grab the viewer's attention. It is the first spot and they are trying to establish who she is in but she doesn't have the luxury of time when trying to unseat an entrenched incumbent like Heinrich.  Finally, in the ad's last sequence, I don't think it catches her at her best from a photogenic standpoint. There's work to be done. 

Tough reviews but candid and offered without bias. 

The highlight of her first media effort isn't the ad but the ad buy. Domenici, who according to Senate financial statements is worth upwards of $90 million, is spending $500,000 for the ad buy. That will bolster her name ID--and if voters are more forgiving than our critics--her standing in the polls. 

As far as posting an existential threat to Heinrich, that day has yet to come. 

(The Cook Political Report ranks the NM Senate race "Solid Democratic."


Besides her media campaign, Domenici is dealing with the yoke of Donald Trump around her neck in a Democratic state. She has already said she will not endorse his candidacy or ask for his endorsement of hers. But state Dems keep asking whether she will vote for him--a question that awaits her answer. Meanwhile, she released this statement in reaction to Trump's conviction at his New York trial:

It is a sad day in our country when Americans see our justice system weaponized. Thankfully there is an appeals process that can correct miscarriages of justice. We stand at an unprecedented time, with our country growing more and more divided each day. This must end. We must come together. We must have leaders who restore trust in our institutions, trust in the rule of law, and trust in one another. 

Demonstrating the fine line Domenici faces in dealing with Trump, conservative radio host and Trump supporter Eddy Aragon pounced on her statement, saying he can't support her because:

She can't even mention Trump's name. 


Kristin Davison
The Domenici campaign has parted ways with local consulting firm Rival Strategy Group and hired national firm Axiom. Rival's Michael Horanberg says: 

We resigned in April to focus on other projects but. . . are 100 percent supportive of her campaign to defeat Martin Heinrich. Republicans are united to win in November.

Rival will continue to consult NM GOP US Rep. candidate Yvette Herrell.

Axiom's Kristin Davison is now the lead consultant on the Domenici campaign, says a spokesman. She was the senior strategist for Glenn Youngkin's successful '22 Virginia gubernatorial campaign. Davison is a former chief of staff to consultant Karl Rove, ex-chief of staff to President George W. Bush. 

She was also the lead consultant for Nella Domenici's half brother, Adam Laxalt of Nevada, when he made an unsuccessful bid for Governor in 2018.


Rep. Hochman-Vigil
We're looking forward to being back on the radio tomorrow night at 6:30 for our live, continuous Election Night coverage on public radio KANW 89.1 FM and kanw.com.

Despite this being a low-key election, much about the future of the state legislature will actually be decided Tuesday. The winners of many of the primary contests will face little or no opposition at the November election, making the primary the be-all, end-all.

Our panel of guest experts will be able to get a handle on the future consequences and also what caused the winners to win and the losers to lose. 

ABQ Dem westside state Rep. Joy Garratt (not "Jay" as a misspelling here had it) will be back with her in-depth knowledge of state Democratic politics. Joy is a retired teacher serving her third term in the House. So heads up class and no throwing erasers at your anchorman. 

ABQ NE Heights Dem Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil, another third term House member, is an attorney and aviation expert. She's back with us and will help our coverage fly high with insights on the campaigns, candidates and the issues to come at the storied Roundhouse. Just don't ask her if Virgin Galactic will fly again.

Rep. Joy Garratt
Attorney David Buchholtz of ABQ's Rodey Law Firm is the state's foremost expert on municipal bonds. But there's no bonds on the ballot tomorrow. Don't worry. He knows about everything else, too.

Dem consultant Sisto Abeyta, an ally of the conservative wing of his party, again joins the KANW roundtable, bringing a bunch of computer models and math formulas that only he can make sense of, but so will you by the time he's done for the night.  

Republican consultant Bob Cornelius has been spending time in SE NM where Republican candidates have been tearing each other limb to limb in several legislative races. Bob calls that fun, so who better to describe the action?

Election Night usually has a surprise or two--or three. So join us tomorrow night on KANW to find out what they are this time around and also for some solid laughs. We promise. 


Our first Election Night on KANW was way back in 1988 and we haven't missed a primary or general election there since then. (Hold your applause.) 

Our very first Election Night on air was at ABQ's KUNM-FM, covering the June 1974 mayoral election between Harry Kinney and Herb Smith (Harry won) so Primary 2024 will be our 50th anniversary of election night broadcasts. 

That's either an Alligator strike on us for being around so long or cause for a mini-celebration with cold pizza that Bob or Sisto (the monied wing of the panel) usually order. 

In any event, we deeply appreciate those of you who have been tuning in over these many decades as well as those new to our efforts. We are thankful for the privilege of sharing so many exciting and eventful Election Nights with New Mexico. Tomorrow night will be yet another. See you then.

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